US embassy cable - 86ISLAMABAD1587

KHAMENEI'S VISIT: RESURGENCE OF SHIA EXTREMISM?

Identifier: 86ISLAMABAD1587
Wikileaks: View 86ISLAMABAD1587 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Islamabad
Created: 1986-01-23 09:28:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PINS PGOV PK
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 230928Z JAN 86
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7608
AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 
AMEMBASSY DHAKA 
AMEMBASSY KUWAIT 
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMEMBASSY MANAMA 
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 
AMEMBASSY RIYADH 
AMCONSUL KARACHI 
AMCONSUL LAHORE 
AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 01587 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:  OADR 
TAGS: PINS, PGOV, PK 
SUBJECT: KHAMENEI'S VISIT: RESURGENCE OF SHIA EXTREMISM? 
 
1. CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2. SUMMARY: THE SUCCESSFUL (FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE) 
VISIT OF KHAMENEI TO PAKISTAN HAS BOOSTED THE MORALE OF 
THE RADICAL SHIA GROUPS HERE. APPARENTLY FLUSH WITH NEW 
FUNDS, THE SHIAS HAVE BEGUN MAKING COMMON CAUSE WITH 
THE ANTI-GOP, ANTI-US OPPOSITION, PARTICULARLY OVER 
LIBYA. SUCH CAUSES EVOKE LITTLE PUBLIC SYMPATHY, AND 
THE ATTITUDES OF THE SUNNI MAJORITY -- MANY OF WHOM 
HAVE BEGUN TO LOOK UPON ANY SIGNS OF SHIA ASSERTIVENESS 
WITH SUSPICION AND DISTASTE -- WILL CONTINUE TO LIMIT 
THE ABILITY OF THE RADICAL SHIAS TO PURSUE SPECIFICALLY 
SECTARIAN GOALS. HOWEVER, SHIA EXTREMISTS WILL 
DOUBTLESS SEEK TO EXPLOIT ANY OPPORTUNITIES FOR FANNING 
ANTI-AMERICANISM AMONG THE PUBLIC AT LARGE. A HEATING 
UP OF THE AL QUDS EPISODE WOULD TURN ALL GROUPS AGAINST 
US.  END SUMMARY. 
 
THE KHAMENEI VISIT 
 
2. ONE WORRISOME ASPECT OF THE RECENT VISIT OF IRANIAN 
PRESIDENT KHAMENEI TO PAKISTAN HAS BEEN THE APPARENT 
NEW LEASE ON LIFE IT HAS GIVEN TO RADICAL SHIA 
ORGANIZATIONS HERE. PAKISTANI SHIAS CLEARLY VIEWED THE 
VISIT PRIMARILY AS A SECTARIAN ONE, AND THE COMMUNITY 
AS A WHOLE WENT ALL OUT TO ENSURE KHAMENEI'S WELCOME 
WAS A WARM ONE. HUGE THRONGS OF SHIAS WERE BUSED TO THE 
AIRPORTS IN LAHORE AND ISLAMABAD TO GREET KHAMENEI AND 
WELCOMING POSTERS SPRUNG UP IN THE MAJOR CITIES OF THE 
COUNTRY. 
 
3. THE MONEY FOR THIS MAJOR EFFORT APPARENTLY CAME FROM 
TWO SOURCES: WEALTHY PAKISTANI SHIAS AND THE IRANIAN 
GOVERNMENT. THE FUNDS WERE FUNNELED PRIMARILY THROUGH 
TWO RADICAL SHIA ORGANIZATIONS, THE TEHRIK-E-NIFAZ-E- 
FIQH-E-JAFFRIA AND THE IMAMIA STUDENTS ORGANIZATION 
(ISO). THESE TWO ORGANIZATIONS HAD BEEN IN THE 
FOREFRONT OF THE SECTARIAN AGITATION LAST YEAR. 
HOWEVER, FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS -- PERHAPS INCLUDING 
THE FEAR OF A SUNNI BACKLASH -- THEY HAD BEEN 
RELATIVELY QUIET FOR THE PAST FEW MONTHS. 
 
4. IN UTILIZING THE NEW FUNDS AVAILABLE, THE EXTREMIST 
SHIAS ENSURED THAT KHAMENEI'S WELCOME TOOK ON A 
RADICAL, ANTI-GOP, ANTI-US TINGE. THE CROWDS CHANTED 
ANTI-AMERICAN SLOGANS, MANY OF THE BANNERS WERE ON AN 
ANTI-AMERICAN THEME, AND A LARGE NUMBER OF SHIAS AT THE 
DEPARTURE CEREMONY OPENLY SHOWED DISRESPECT TO 
PRESIDENT ZIA, SURROUNDING HIS CAR AND MAKING OBSCENE 
GESTURES. 
 
RENEWED SELF-CONFIDENCE 
 
5. IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE KHAMENEI VISIT, THE RADICAL 
SHIAS APPEAR MORE SELF-CONFIDENT THAN THEY HAVE IN 
MONTHS. SINCE KHAMENEI'S DEPARTURE, THE ISO HAS BEEN 
PARTICULARLY ACTIVE IN SUPPORTING THE FLURRY OF 
ANTI-AMERICAN, PRO-LIBYAN RALLIES WHICH OPPOSITION 
POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE ORGANIZED THROUGHOUT THE 
COUNTRY. THESE RALLIES HAVE NOT STRUCK A POPULAR CHORD 
-- ATTENDANCE HAS ALMOST UNIFORMLY BEEN SMALL -- BUT 
THE AMOUNT OF ORGANIZATIONAL EFFORT WHICH HAS GONE INTO 
THEM AND THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE POPPED UP ALL OVER THE 
COUNTRY MAKES THIS PHENOMENON NOTEWORTHY. 
 
LIMITS 
 
6. THE ACTIVITIES OF THE RADICAL SHIA ORGANIZATIONS 
WILL, HOWEVER, CONTINUE TO BE LIMITED BY TWO FACTORS: 
THE  AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS AND FEAR OF A SUNNI 
BACKLASH. THE RECENT ACTIVISM OF THE RADICAL SHIAS 
APPEARS TO BE A MANIFESTATION NOT ONLY OF EUPHORIA 
FOLLOWING THE KHAMENEI VISIT, BUT ALSO OF A GREATER 
AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS. THE MONEY BEING SPENT NOW --MUCH 
OF WHICH PRESUMABLY IS LEFT-OVER FROM THE VISIT -- WILL 
HAVE TO BE REPLENISHED IF THE SHIAS ARE TO MAINTAIN 
THEIR CURRENT LEVEL OF ACTIVITY. THE ATTITUDE OF THE 
IRANIAN GOVERNMENT -- THE MOST LIKELY PAYMASTER -- WILL 
THEN BECOME CRUCIAL -- WILL THE IRANIANS RISK 
ANTAGONIZING THE GOP TO PLAY THEIR OWN SECTARIAN GAMES 
IN PAKISTAN? 
 
7. GIVEN THE DEMOGRAPHIC IMBALANCE -- AND THE GROWING 
INTOLERANCE OF SHIA "DEMANDS" BY THE VAST SUNNI 
MAJORITY, THE SHIAS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PURSUE 
SUCCESSFULLY A SPECIFICALLY SHIA AGENDA. INDEED, THE 
LEVEL OF GRUMBLING AMONGST THE SUNNIS ABOUT THE SHIAS 
HAS NOTICEABLY RISEN AS A RESULT OF A PERCEPTION THAT 
THE SHIAS "HIJACKED" KHAMENEI'S VISIT FOR THEIR OWN 
PURPOSES AND ARE -- ONCE AGAIN -- GROWING UPPITY. 
PRESIDENT ZIA HIMSELF IS REPORTEDLY ENRAGED BY HIS 
TREATMENT AT THE HANDS OF KHAMENEI'S WELL-WISHERS AND 
HAS TOLD THE SECURITY FORCES TO CHECK CLOSELY INTO THE 
OPERATIONS --AND FUNDING -- OF THE RADICAL SHIAS. 
 
8. PRESUMABLY, A RECOGNITION THAT THEY CAN NOT AFFORD 
TO GO IT ALONE AT LEAST PARTIALLY EXPLAINS WHY THE 
RADICAL SHIAS ARE INCREASINGLY MAKING COMMON CAUSE WITH 
THE EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION AND IN PARTICULAR 
HAVE LASHED ON TO THE LIBYAN CAUSE AS TOOL FOR 
AMERICAN-BASHING. 
 
9. THE OPPOSITION ALLIANCE, THE MOVEMENT FOR THE 
RESTORARTION OF DEMOCRACY (MRD), HAS BEEN WILLING TO 
MAKE COMMON CAUSE AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT WITH THE 
SHIAS. IN SOME WAYS, THIS IS A NATURAL ALLIANCE OF 
GROUPS ON THE OUTS WITH THE PRESENT SYSTEM. FOR THE 
MRD, HOWEVER, THE SHIAS REPRESENT A TWO-EDGED SWORD: 
SHIA EXTREMISTS MIGHT HIJACK THE ANTI-GOVERNMENT 
MOVEMENT FOR THEIR OWN RADICAL PURPOSES, THEREBY 
ALIENATING MUCH OF THE MRD'S CONSTITUENCY (MANY OF WHOM 
ARE FAIRLY CONSERVATIVE SUNNIS). 
 
COMMENT 
 
10.  FOR THE MOMENT, THE TACTIS OF THE RADICAL SHIAS 
APPEAR UNLIKELY TO SUCCEED:  THE GOVERNMENT APPEARS 
FAIRLY FIRMLY IN THE SADDLE, AT LEAST OVER THE SHORT 
TERM; AND COLONEL QADDHAFI'S CAUSE EVOKES LITTLE PUBLIC 
SYMPATHY -- TOO MANY PAKISTANIS CONSIDER HIM A 
TERRORIST. IF, HOWEVER, AN ANTI-AMERICAN CAUSE ARISES 
AROUND WHICH A LARGER SECTION OF THE PAKISTANI POPULACE 
CAN UNITE -- AND EVENTS SUCH AS RECENTLY HAPPENED AT 
THE AL-AQSA MOSQUE COULD PROVE TO BE SUCH A CATALYST -- 
THE RADICAL SHIAS WILL NO DOUBT DO ALL THEY CAN TO TAKE 
ADVANTAGE OF THE SITUATION. 
 
 
HINTON 

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